In Paris next month, world leaders will converge at the United Nations summit on climate change, ‘COP21’.
With a sweeping new deal to reduce global carbon emissions expected to be agreed, some of the world’s largest fossil fuel companies – and their investors – will soon be on the wrong side of a powerful historical shift.
As Christiana Figueres, the UN’s top climate official recently explained, 155 countries have already put forward detailed plans covering nearly 90 percent of global CO2 emissions. “It is unstoppable. No amount of lobbying at this point is going to change the direction,” she told a Carbon Tracker forum in London.
But whilst high carbon companies will feel the most immediate impact of COP21, businesses of all shapes and sizes, irrespective of industry or country, should pay close attention to the Paris summit. For corporate social responsibility – and the idea of the purpose of a company in society – has gone fully mainstream.
Once seen as peripheral to companies’ main business activities, CSR is now not only seen as standard practice but indeed been shown to actively improve the bottom line when fully integrated into the business.
With corporations everywhere more engaged with CSR activities, it has never been more important to understand how to effectively communicate those strategies and achievements to stakeholders. Given the general public’s current distrust of some of our major companies, C-suite executives might understandably be concerned that these CSR communications are wrongly perceived as ‘greenwashing’. That is, falsely over-promoting a company’s environmental, social and governance (ESG) credentials for reputational gain.
When you consider that most external stakeholders rely on a company’s own reporting to see the benefit of its CSR activities, such cynicism is only natural.
So then the question is: as we enter a new era of corporate sustainability, how then is it best to communicate good CSR policy to your audience?